President Donald Trump said Tuesday he plans to issue an executive order to protect statues and other historical monuments from destruction by “hoodlums” and “anarchists.”
Trump offered no details about the order, saying “I will have an executive order very shortly. All it’s going to do is reinforce what’s already there, but in a more uniform way.”
“We are looking at long-term jail sentences for these vandals and these hoodlums and these anarchists and agitators,” Trump told reporters on the White House South Lawn before departing for a trip to Arizona.
“Call them whatever you want,” he said. “Some people don’t like that language, but that’s what they are. They are bad people. They don’t love our country. And they’re not taking down our monuments.”
Trump’s remarks came a day after protesters tried to tear down a statue of former President Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Park just across the street from the White House. The statue is one of several across the country that have been targeted by protesters following the death of George Floyd.
The Veterans Memorial Preservation Act, a federal law passed in 2003, already makes it a crime to destroy or attempt to destroy a plaque, monument or statue “commemorating the service” of anyone who served in the armed forces. The law carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.
Trump said several people already have been jailed for trying to remove the Andrew Jackson statute and that others would be charged soon.
The statue shows Jackson in a military uniform, riding a horse that is rearing on its hind legs. The 19th century president’s ruthless treatment of Native Americans has made his statue a target of demonstrators protesting the United States’ legacy of racial injustice.
The Secret Service and police officers intervened before the statue was toppled, Trump said.
Earlier Tuesday,Trump tweeted that he has authorized the federal government to arrest anyone who destroys, vandalizes or destroys any monument or statue on federal property.
“These are not protesters,” Trump said. “These are anarchists.”
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